Monday, June 15, 2009

Two-year old travelling

We used frequent flyer tickets to get from Oz to the States, which meant that we had a less than ideal itinerary: Brisbane-Auckland-L.A.-Washington Dulles-Cleveland. Thirty-six hours from first take-off to final landing. So of course we were wondering how the One of Us Who Is Two would handle it all.

Well, he handled it great. Slept a lot, ate his airplane meals more or less competently, got a big kick out of putting his hands over his ears when we flushed the airplane toilets.

The problem came when we were off the plane.

We put him to sleep at 8 the first night in Cleveland, then went to sleep ourselves at midnight. At midnight-thirty Elias sat up and announced, "I'm all done sleeping!". No amount of cajoling or soothing would get him to give up his insistence that he was ready to play. So he got up that night and played, and ate a full meal at 2 am, and finally went back to sleep at 3:30.

The next night, the same.

The night after that, the same.

It turns out that the mental effort that adults expend to get over jet lag just doesn't work for little people. They stay on their old schedule until their bodies get tired of it. Alisa and I, meantime, would find ourselves beginning each of these night time sessions exhausted and willing the little fellow to sleep, but as the wee hours ground on his jet lag would become infectious, and we'd soon be wide awake ourselves.

After four nights Elias was getting over it. But then we went to Alaska, and when we came back to Ohio we were again four hours off of schedule. The first night back, I just gave in and watched TV with Elias until 1:30 in the morning...

Alisa and Elias in Aunt Noe's convertible during our 8-hour layover in L.A.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


We’ve just returned to my folks’ house in Cleveland after a ten-day visit to the Great Land. The highlight of our trip north was the return to Kodiak, two years to the month after we left the island on a twenty-five year old boat with our ten-month old child, determined to sail across the Pacific Ocean.

Before the trip, Alisa and I were full of the suspense of finding out how our identification with Alaska had weathered the last two years. Would Kodiak seem hopelessly provincial after we had roamed such a wide swath of the Pacific? Would the consistently foul weather of the northernmost Pacific seem no longer supportable after we had tasted a year of living in our swim suits?

The first four days of our visit featured the rain and fog and cold that we expected to find in early June. The sky was low and gray, the rainslick trees were black. Even in the middle of the day the sunlight was muted enough that being outside suggested the experience of ongoing depression or creeping blindness. A significant minority of our friends seemed to bring the conversation endlessly back to the question of whether living in Kodiak was “worth it”.

But… there was also the excitement of the new summer in town. Friends were leaving for remote cabins where they would gillnet salmon for the season, or they were getting boats ready to head out for the grounds. We slipped effortlessly back into the feeling of belonging to a community, of being in a town where we couldn’t walk a few minutes in any direction without coming to a house where we would be welcomed at the door. The daylight, though generally dim, was nearly endless, with sunlight or nearly-as-bright twilight for 20 hours a day. I remembered the elation and release that the superabundance of daytime used to bring to me after traversing the dark months of winter, and I marveled at our situation of not having seen winter in two years.

The weather cleared towards the end of our stay, and I took the chance to walk up Old Woman’s mountain above the airport. Getting out of town, I came home. Slowly stumping up the trail on my sailor’s legs, I stopped to remind myself of the names of the singing birds, and I re-discovered the ineffable peace that comes from being out in the country in Alaska. Really, the only other thing that I have ever found that can compare with walking on a mountain in Alaska is sailing for weeks out of sight of land on a small boat. And, for all the social irregularities that come with living in an isolated small town, and the spells of bad weather, and the expense, I realized on that hike that Kodiak is still home, and that we really don’t need anything in the long run that we can’t find on that particular Pacific island.

So. That’s good to know.

The view from Near Island, about 150 m from downtown Kodiak.